To be Frank

To be Frank

To be Frank

First published in Music

The phrase 'hardest-working man in show business' is overused. And more than that, it's an impossible thing to measure.

But, if there was a league table, you can bet Frank Turner would be up there.

The folk-punk singer has been touring in one shape or another for the past 16 years, whether as part of his short-lived "terrible" school band Kneejerk, the much-missed post-punk band Million Dead or as a solo artist.

He's heading out on the road again in September, his second UK tour this year. This time, however, there are a few differences.

Firstly, the venues Turner and his band, The Sleeping Souls, are performing in are off the beaten path. It's a nod to the fact Turner, after being born in Bahrain, grew up close to Winchester in the Hampshire village of Meonstoke, and bands very rarely, if ever, came to play nearby.

"It's also a nod of respect to people who like my music," he says. "I am aware not everyone lives in London, Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham. And people are so entitled these days. As soon as we announced these gigs, people in the cities were saying, 'There's nowhere near me', so I say 'Yes there is, there's this place, which is 15 minutes on the train'. Those guys in the sticks have to travel all the time.

"Plus, as well as keeping fans on their toes, it's more interesting for me and my crew to go to new places, too."

The other reason Turner's forthcoming run of shows will be different is that rather than promoting an album - his fifth album Tape Deck Heart came out last year - he and the band are going to be playing all-new songs in preparation for recording their sixth.

"We're going into the studio in October," he explains. "I've long had the feeling I'm yet to make a record that captures what we sound like live. You can think about methodology and studio craft all you want, but why not just go into the studio on the back of a tour when we're sounding great?

"And I've got way too many songs for an album - 19 at last count - so we're going to play lots of them, and we will work out what to put on the record from that. Not that I'm going to be saying, 'That went down well, let's put it on the record', but I'll get a good idea from crowd reaction and from playing the songs each night."

His next album, he expects, will be released at the end of February, and will feature one song called Love Forty Down, a metaphor for being in your Thirties and being "rubbish at relationships", inspired by hearing some friends playing table tennis one night.

Another is called Get Better, which shares a title with a song by his friends Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip. "I rang Pip to ask if it was OK to share the title and not only did he say yes, but he offered to remix the song for us as well."

There's not much sign of this workload stopping. Despite 2014 seeing him play all over the world, Turner's team are currently booking shows, provisionally at least, for 2016.

"I live a life that revolves around album cycles, and those shows are definitely written in pencil rather than pen, but yeah, it's all being planned. And I wouldn't have it any other way."

After a summer of playing festivals all over Europe, he's particularly excited to get back to playing his own shows, while this summer marked the point where he'd been touring for more than half his life.

"I did my first tour in 1998, which was 16 years ago, and now I'm 32, so yeah, half my life on the road. I think we celebrated with another gig, which seemed about right."

Turner was born in Muharraq in Bahrain. His father was a banker and was on a posting to the Middle East in the early Eighties, and Turner lived there for the first six months of his life.

"The main impact that it has on my life is that the place of birth on my passport is Muharraq. Try getting into the US with Muharraq written on your passport," he says.

His grandfather, Sir Mark Turner, was once chairman of high street chain BHS, while his father, Roger, worked in investment banking, and his mum Jane is a primary school headteacher.

The life of a travelling folk singer perhaps seems unlikely for a former Eton pupil (Turner studied alongside Prince William at the elite school), and much has been made in the past of his background and political beliefs.

Turner describes himself as a "classic liberal" in line with many modern libertarians, and has beliefs based on "democracy, individuality, equality of opportunity, distrust of power and, above all else, freedom, including economic freedom". He has 'Freeborn' tattooed on his knuckles, as well as the ama-gi Sumerian cuneiform on his arm, the first written reference to the word 'Freedom' found in southern Mesopotamia, now modern Iraq, although as he gets older, he says he's less inclined to share his politics at all.

For now, at least, he's concerning himself with his music - "The only thing I'm really interested in" - and preparations for album six.

"I have a title but I can't tell you what it is," he says, though he will reveal it'll be an upbeat collection, after the break-up confessional of Tape Deck Heart.

"I want it to be shorter, too. We did a deluxe album for the last one, which seems confused to me in retrospect," Turner adds. "I want the next one to be a 12-track album - simple and direct."

EXTRA TIME - FRANK TURNER

:: Frank Turner was born in Bahrain on December 28, 1981.

:: He attended Eton College, where he was a classmate of Prince William, and later studied history at the London School Of Economics.

:: He was formerly a member of highly-acclaimed post-punk band Million Dead, but they split in 2005 when Turner went solo.

:: He appeared on Celebrity Mastermind earlier this year and won, scoring 20 points. His specialist subject was Iron Maiden.

:: Turner formed hardcore band Mongol Horde with Ben Dawson, a former Million Dead bandmate, and Matt Nasir, who plays keyboards in his current backing band The Sleeping Souls. They released their debut album earlier this year.

:: Frank Turner's latest album, Tape Deck Heart, is out now. He begins a UK tour on September 11. Full dates below

TOUR DATES

September:

11 - Norwich UEA

12 - Leicester De Montfort Hall

13 - Salisbury City Hall

14 - On Blackheath Festival, London

15 - St Albans Arena

16 - Cambridge Corn Exchange

18 - Northampton Roadmender

19 - Bath Pavilion

20 - Yeovil Westlands

21 - Looe Music Festival

22 - Exeter Lemon Grove

24 - Hartlepool Borough Hall

25 - Dunfermline Alhambra

26 - Warrington Parr Hall

27 - Hull City Hall

28 - Wakefield Unity Works

30 - Oxford Town Hall

 

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